And that means some freaking out for generations of viewers who were raised with his calming presence on air when Oklahomas storms are at their worst.
A fairly typical reaction on Twitter: I have not ever lived in a world where Gary England was not keeping me advised, tweeted Royce Young, an online sports journalist. Im currently in the fetal position.
But England, whose last day on-air is Friday, is still calm. And he knows hes leaving Oklahoma in good hands.
Things will turn out just fine, he said. The guys we have are really good. Theyre the best bunch Ive ever had.
It doesnt hurt that he has trained most of them, or that his new position vice president for corporate relations and weather development at Griffin Communications (which owns KWTV and several other media outlets) will keep him close to the action.
The drinking game
Its hard to believe he started out doing weather reports for the radio, stopping at phone booths and calling in the forecast six times a day. When he got his start on TV, it wasnt even in Oklahoma. He spent four years in New Orleans before returning to the state.
Oklahoma isnt just where the weather happens; its also where weather science has made the biggest advances. England was the first to use radar to predict tornadoes, thanks to the trust (and big investment) of John Griffin.
I told him it would work, and in 1978, he spent about $250,000 to buy a radar, he said. We got it in 1980, and it took us a couple of
years to get it working. I remember the first time we watched as a storm
came in. It looked like scrambled eggs.
first time, tracking a tornado as it crossed Ada, all England had to
work from were a couple of 8-by-10 glossies of what it should look like.
Things have changed quite a bit in the intervening years.
news goes viral now (which makes having the correct information more
important). It used to be if you werent watching on TV, you didnt know
what was coming. Now, with Twitter and Facebook mediums England and
KWTV use often its hard to escape the information.
Also hard to escape: the notoriety of being Gary England. Whether its ironic hero worship from The Lost Ogle or the Gary England Drinking Game, the Seiling native has become something more than just a weatherman.
You know, I looked over the rules of the game, and its pretty cute, he told Oklahoma Gazette. I think it had been going on for years before someone told me about it. That said, I dont like promoting drinking during severe weather.
And he swears cross his heart hes not predicting a storm near Gotebo just to make you take another shot.
Predictions and saving lives
know, I interviewed Toby Keith recently. He pulled up in this big
truck, and he jumped out hes a big guy and landed right in front of
me and said, Get Val on the Gettner! Many of those catchphrases were
born of necessity, England said.
Jump back, throw me down Loretta came when I had a seven minute show every night.
Even during the off season for storms. Every. Night. Sometimes you just
want to fill the time, he said.
he prepares to leave the air, England said hes proud of his legacy,
even though it ha
s taken him a while to accept that hed never be
If you do
your job as weve been trained, do the best you can, youll still miss
something, he said. But you have to accept the fact that its not
always going to be right. I used to couldnt stand it if I missed
nights werent the late ones, fretting over the radar images of multiple
vortices. It was when he went home after predicting a beautiful night
and then heard a crash of thunder.
would jump out of bed, noseprint on the window, mad that Id messed it
up, he said. As polite as Oklahomans can be, they wouldnt mind
telling me when my predictions were wrong.
the best nights? The best nights were when his team helped save some
lives. Even though hes stepping back, he said its only going to get
better for Oklahoma.
technology, the understanding, the people doing the programming its
all improving, he said. Not only is it going to be more accurate, its
going to be faster. Were going to be able to predict storms from days
Which means everybody will know if its Friday Night in the Big Town around Wednesday afternoon. Not a bad legacy at all.